Sale of land needed to extend Potteries Shopping Centre would 'breach' contract
CITY council chief executive John van de Laarschot has revealed he wanted to sell the land needed for an extension to the Potteries Shopping Centre – but couldn't because the £350 million City Sentral complex is taking so long to get started.
The authority has come under fire for refusing to sell land in Brewery Street and Bryan Street to allow the Potteries Shopping Centre to deliver its full expansion plans.
Owner Capital Shopping Centres (CSC) says it is pressing ahead with a £15 million project to add an eight-screen cinema and six restaurants by 2015.
But the plans have been significantly scaled back with one restaurant now much smaller and another dropped altogether.
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Council leaders insisted they were acting to protect the £350 million shopping, cinema and leisure complex planned by Realis Estates for the former East West precinct.
But Mr van de Laarschot has now revealed the sale was in fact prevented by a legally-binding development agreement with Realis, which requires the council to help it build the shopping centre, now expected in early 2016.
He says if Realis had made more progress on building City Sentral the land sale would have been allowed to go ahead – and it may still go ahead in future.
In a letter sent to unaffiliated Hanley councillor Paul Breeze and seen by The Sentinel, Mr van de Laarschot said: "The city council cannot sell the land to CSC as this would in all probability be deemed as a breach of condition of the agreement.
"That does not mean we do not support CSC's plans, simply that we cannot do so through a land sale until the development agreement goes unconditional.
"We have of course discussed a possible land sale with CSC and had hoped that we would now be in a position to proceed as we believed City Sentral would have moved on sufficiently to give us all the confidence to progress.
"We regret the delivery is not as swift as anybody might have hoped but this does reflect unfavourable market conditions." The Sentinel revealed this month how Vue Cinemas is in talks over moving into both the Potteries Shopping Centre and City Sentral.
But Vue will only commit to one development and the top restaurant brands needed to support both schemes will follow the cinema.
Both CSC and Realis insist their developments are on track.
Mr Breeze, an outspoken critic of the council's decision to refuse a land sale, said of Mr van de Laarscho's responset: "Ultimately he signed the agreement Realis which put all of the cards in their hand.
"It is one thing having aspirations, but it's another to deliver them.
"I want what is best for this city as much as anybody else but I have serious doubts about City Sentral and whether the city can really support two shopping centres."
Mr van de Laarschot added that he is hopeful both schemes can go ahead – creating a "retail dumbbell" to tempt retailers into both the north and south of Hanley.